Ontario, Toronto release framework for deal to upload city’s subway to Queen’s Park


It sets the stage for the biggest subway transfer in the history of the Toronto Transit Commission.

Premier Doug Ford’s government on Tuesday released the terms of reference for the deal to “upload” the building and maintenance of new and existing TTC subway lines to the province from the City of Toronto.

Premier Doug Ford has released the terms of reference for the deal to upload the building and maintenance of new and existing TTC subway lines to the province from the City of Toronto.
Premier Doug Ford has released the terms of reference for the deal to upload the building and maintenance of new and existing TTC subway lines to the province from the City of Toronto.  (Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press)

The plan, a cornerstone of the Progressive Conservatives’ election platform last June, would leave the TTC responsible for day-to-day operations of the subway while keeping fare box revenues.

Buses and streetcars would continue to be run by the city.

“With an upload, our government can cut through red tape to start new projects and finish construction faster,” Ford promised.

“Necessary maintenance and investment in the subway system has been put off for too long. We’ve also been waiting far too long for subway expansions. New subway construction has been stuck in red tape for years. It’s time to take action and speed things up,” the premier said.

Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek said the “bold action” would speed up construction, making life easier for commuters from across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

“As a government, we are turning priorities into real projects and get the job done. We know that a lack of transit infrastructure and traffic congestion are costing money, jobs and time,” said Yurek as the framework was announced.

Read more:

Law to upload responsibility for Toronto subway to province coming in spring

“The signing of the terms of reference between the province of Ontario and the City of Toronto signals a shared interest to improve subway service, build more transit projects, to expand, and integrate the regional network and get people moving,” he said.

That means a push for more integrated fares and services between the TTC and regional transit systems, including GO.

“As we continue to work with the city and TTC, we will act in an open and transparent manner to get desperately needed transit built sooner and we will make every decision with … taxpayers and transit riders top of mind,” said Yurek.

As part of nine-page accord, Queen’s Park and the city will assess the value of the subway system, which carries 289 million people annually, and the price tag for deferred maintenance.

Sources told the Star that both sides are close to agreeing that the subway is worth between $8 billion and $9 billion, with about $5.6 billion required to maintain and upgrade existing equipment such as signals, tunnels, and track.

That suggests the city would have a one-time net gain on its bottom line of between $2.4 billion and $3.4 billion.

But according to a report published by the TTC last month, the subway network and stations will require roughly $22 billion in capital investment over the next 15 years, a figure that doesn’t include the cost of building the much-anticipated relief line or other expansion projects. More than $16 billion is unfunded.

The required work, which the TTC says is necessary to keep current levels of service and meet future demand, includes capacity improvements on Lines 1 and 2, installing the automatic train control signalling system, buying new trains, and expanding Bloor-Yonge station.

The terms of reference released Tuesday make clear that options on the table include ones that would fall short of a complete transfer of subway assets to the province. The city and province will also examine a model under which Ontario would only assume ownership and responsibilities of new transit expansion projects.

In December, Toronto council voted overwhelmingly to reaffirm its position that the subway should remain in the city’s hands. But at the same meeting of that largely symbolic decision, councillors also voted to enter talks with the province to set terms of reference for discussions about the upload.

Despite Mayor John Tory and the majority of councillors registering their disapproval of the upload proposal, many said they felt they had little choice but to sit down with the province, having received confidential legal advice that the city had no legislative authority to prevent Queen’s Park from taking over the rail network.

“Discussions between city staff and the province will continue now guided by the approved terms of reference and I expect a full report to council at the appropriate time,” Tory said Tuesday.

“I continue to firmly believe that any actions taken with regard to our subway system need to be in the best interests of the people of Toronto, including transit riders and employees, and that Toronto must be completely involved and fully consulted as Premier Ford previously indicated would be the case,” the mayor said.

“It is a good document that has been agreed upon by the two parties to now shape the discussion. The real decision time will come once those discussions have happened and whether or not they produce some kind of a deal or some kind of a change from the status quote that is good for employees, transit riders, taxpayers and anybody else who is a stakeholder from the city of Toronto,” he said.

“I can’t tell you if that’s going to be the case or not.”

At Queen’s Park, the opposition New Democrats said Toronto’s subways are “one step closer to being stolen by Doug Ford.”

“What Toronto’s subways need is the provincial investment they’re owed, not a complicated Doug Ford scheme to break subways apart from the TTC,” said MPP Jessica Bell (University-Rosedale).

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner was also not convinced.

“Centralizing power in the premier’s office is not a silver bullet for fixing transportation delays,” he said in a statement, calling for a downtown relief line as soon as possible.

“Given Ford’s well-documented distaste for above-ground public transit, I am skeptical about the ability of his government to make evidence-based decisions for the TTC,” Schreiner said.

“Putting the relief line on the back burner while Ford builds subways to the suburbs would be disastrous for the TTC and for anyone trying to travel in Toronto.”

The terms of reference released Tuesday lay out objectives that largely reflect council’s stated position from the December meeting that the framework for discussions should give consideration to guiding principles of good governance, fair allocation of financial obligations between the city and province, and an integrated transit system.

They also state the province and city will consult the public on the proposal, which council had also set out as a condition for talks in the December vote.

Under the framework, there would be more private-public partnerships to build infrastructure like the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, which is slated to open in 2021.

“The parties jointly recognize the need to pursue alternative approaches to the planning, funding, decision-making and delivery of transit in Toronto, and spanning the broader region,” stated the document signed by the province and the city on Monday.

This means the “accelerated implementation of priority transit projects,” better integration of TTC with Metrolinx and transit agencies in the 905, the “modernization and enhancement” of the existing subway system and a “long-term sustainable, predictable funding model” for transit.

However, there remains a lot of room for the deal to go off the rails.

Josh Matlow, the one member of council who voted against entering into talks with the province, said he took no comfort in the fact the terms state the two parties will consider options under which the city would retain ownership of existing subway assets while ceding new projects to the province.

“I think we’re being suckered,” said Matlow (Ward 12-St. Paul’s).

Citing past statements by the premier and the province’s recently announced strategy of using private development at station sites to fund transit, he charged the Ford government is dead set on taking over Toronto’s subway system wholesale and selling off land and air rights along the lines.

Matlow said councillors would be a “bunch of Pollyannas” to believe otherwise.

“Metaphorically, they’ve already announced that they want to take over your house and all the belongings in it. And to get you to the table to give them your keys and the number for your alarm they’ve said, oh yeah, we’ll also discuss some other options too. Maybe we’ll only take your furniture.”

Councillor Joe Cressy (Ward 10- Spadina-Fort York) slammed the upload talks as “a waste of time.”

Cressy said if Ontario was sincere about improving transit, it would increase its spending for the TTC instead of trying to take the subway system from the city.

“If the province truly wants to support the TTC and the movement of people and goods and services in this city, they should invest in it,” he said.

But proponents argue the province, which can borrow more money and run a deficit, will be better positioned to build and repair the subway network.

With files from David Rider

Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie

Ben Spurr is a Toronto-based reporter covering transportation. Reach him by email at bspurr@thestar.ca or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr

Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1


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Big city mayors call for emergency federal funding to deal with housing crunch


The mayors of Canada’s largest cities are ramping up pressure on the Trudeau government to deliver a major cash infusion to cope with a housing shortage they say has been driven in part by refugees.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities ‘Big City Mayors’ caucus was to gather in Ottawa today before meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and delivering its election year wish list for the 2019 federal budget — the last of the Liberal government’s current mandate.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said his city had to absorb roughly $5.7 million in additional housing costs in 2017 related to a spike in asylum seekers crossing the border from the United States. He said he expects the city took a similar hit in 2018.

« What often happens is a government will make a decision at a senior level and the consequences trickle down to us, » Watson said.

« Toronto received $11 million in July to deal with refugee claimants. Our city has received nothing. »

Share the burden, mayors say

The mayors don’t appear to have a specific sum in mind for emergency federal housing money. In late 2017, the Trudeau government rolled out a 10-year, $40-billion national housing strategy meant in part to address a severe shortage of affordable housing units in major cities, but the mayors appear to be looking for more near-term funding.

The RCMP intercepted 19,411 asylum seekers outside official border points in 2018, down from 20,593 in 2017.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said he agrees with Watson that the federal government ought to do more to share the burden of settling refugees outside of Toronto.

« [The federal government] makes the decisions about what happens at the border and Toronto is very supportive, for example, of admitting refugees, » he said. « We’ve had a historically compassionate approach in this country which we support. But the federal government, who admits refugees to the country, also has to take a hand in helping to house and settle them. »

Watson also said the federal government’s decision to legalize recreational marijuana use is ramping up the cost of police drug enforcement in his city.

« In our case we’re going to receive about $2 million for all enforcement inspections … and our staff estimate it’s more of a cost of $8 million so we’re going to have to absorb $6 million in costs, » he said.

« It’s almost like, you know, when the federal and provincial governments sneeze, we end up getting a cold. »

But the major ask from Canada’s largest cities is likely to be for federal transit funding. The mayors are looking for $34 billion over 10 years starting in 2028 for public transit services. Under their proposal, $30 billion of that would be distributed to cities based on ridership — $29 billion going to transit systems with a ridership over a certain threshold and the remaining $1 billion to smaller transit systems.

The other $4 billion would go to boosting ridership and to rural transit systems. The mayors also want the funding made permanent.

Political clout

« That allows Toronto to think about its next major subway expansion, it allows Halifax to start thinking about bus rapid transit and allows Edmonton to think about where light rail will go next, » said Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson​, chairman of the big city mayors’ caucus.

Iveson said he and his other large city mayors swing considerable political clout in a federal election year.

« These 22 mayors represent more than half the country’s population and two-thirds of its economy. So you know we have an opportunity to influence the course of the country. »

Infrastructure Minister François-Philippe Champagne said his government has already invested billions in transit.

« There have been repairs and upgrades of more than 2,000 kilometres of roads and highways, more than 170 kilometres of new highway, and more than 70 new bridges, » he said in an email. « Public transit across the country has seen improvements, including more than 3,000 new buses purchased, 3,700 buses repaired and refurbished, nearly 15,000 bus stops and shelters been upgraded, and more than 200 transit stations built or upgraded. »

Along with Trudeau, the mayors are expected to meet today with Champagne, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc and Bill Blair, the minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction.


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This $25 Vacuum Helped Me Deal With Adulthood | Healthyish


There’s been a lot of talk about millennials and « adulting » recently, about how we struggle to complete the simplest, most mundane tasks. Cleaning was never such a task for me. In fact, it’s always been a form of therapy, a mindless endeavor with instant gratification, always available when researching stories, setting goals, or when other « grown-up » tasks become too much to handle (though rest assured that my partner does his fair share of chores). But, now that I have a 16-month-old daughter, it’s become harder to defend my home—its limited-edition pillowcases, animal sculptures bought across five continents, and thoughtfully framed vintage postcards—from mess and dirt. So I bought a vacuum cleaner, and then it made me cry.

Let me explain.

It all started relatively innocently, with a realization that between the cat, the toddler, and life itself, messes were piling up faster than my deadlines. What if, instead of the ever-crusty broom or the heavy, bucky vacuum hiding in the closet, there was a tiny gadget, cordless and slick? What if I could pull it out quickly and make it all go away? For $24.95, Amazon delivered a small, easy to assemble mini-vacuum, powered by rechargeable batteries and complete with a comfy wall mount. “Oh, you bought a Dustbuster?” my partner exclaimed with nostalgic glee. Having grown up outside of the U.S, I’d never heard of such a thing; in fact, when I saw the inexpensive Black & Decker device, I thought I’d stumbled on the craziest innovation in the history of cleaning. Turns out, while my mom was manually eliminating my messes in late-’70s Communist Russia, American women were already enjoying the first Dustbuster by the very same brand. I’d unknowingly bought a piece of U.S history—fully redesigned.

After the package arrived, I found myself using the tiny vacuum quite frequently and with a suspicious amount of joy. With my new cordless friend, the therapeutic effect of cleaning skyrocketed. I was becoming properly addicted. I pulled the Dustbuster out every morning and let it power through, sucking cat food, chest hair, soil, and cracker chunks into oblivion. Soon, I found myself telling my friends and family about it with the passion normally reserved for new relationships. “It’s so fast!” I’ll tell an acquaintance. “You just pull it out, and just like that, no mess!” To another friend, I remember saying: “It’s seriously the best thing that happened to me this month.”

When I brought it up on another occasion, tearful and overcome by a feeling of deep gratitude, I knew something was going on. And then I heard myself say: “I wish everything in life was so easy.” “How do you mean?” my friend wondered. Somehow, between the end of college and this year, life—that big bundle of chores, career choices and aspirations my peers have reportedly been failing at—did sneak up on me. Parenting, especially, flips the script. Forget mailing packages and registering to vote, staying on top of Oscar nominees or maintaining friendships. Try doing all of the above plus caring for a tiny human you artisanally co-produced along the way, whose sole purpose in life it to touch everything and climb on anything. Pockets of time previously reserved to self-care, taking a break, or Googling those Oscar nominees, for God’s sake, can easily evaporate. And the home—the « sanctuary »—you once had? It’s a 24/7 playground. You love every moment of it, sure, but tasks double and triple while your bandwidth stretches tragically thin. You adjust, of course, but it takes time.

I wanted to tell my friend that I wish you could just pull a small gadget from a wall in a matter of seconds and suck all your problems away. Doubts: gone. Unpleasant duties and conflicts: momentarily eliminated. Mucky challenges: Done with. And while making life nice again, the gadget’s pleasant noise would be just loud enough to quiet the negative chit chat in your head. While the cordless vacuum could never do all those things, I still found something utterly healing about its industrious, seamless ways, its readily available efficiency. I was now the adult cleaning up, and life wasn’t getting any easier, or freer. Hmmm went the Dustbuster, restoring peace and harmony. It couldn’t suck away all of life’s dirt and unpleasantries like I wanted it to, but it was a suitable and affordable stand-in.

Did American women and men decades ago feel the same way? I want to imagine they did. Nearly 40 years after its creation, I finally joined the Dustbuster ranks, feeling as if I uncovered a sweet secret. I still pull it out multiple times a day, trying not to feel embarrassed by the unusual strength of our bond. I use cleaning to cope, and I’m not ashamed of that.

Buy it: Black + Decker Dustbuster Cordless Handheld Vacuum, $30.

All products featured on Healthyish are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.


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RCMP and Wet’suwet’en chiefs strike tentative deal


UNIST’OT’EN CAMP—Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have struck a deal with the RCMP that would let them keep a gate on a bridge on a logging road, but allow Coastal GasLink through to start preconstruction on a $6.2-billion gas pipeline that will run through their traditional lands.

In exchange, the RCMP will not raid the camp or enter the Unist’ot’en healing lodge without an invitation.

RCMP liaison officers approach the gates of the Unist'ot'en checkpoint on a bridge over the Wedzin kwa River.
RCMP liaison officers approach the gates of the Unist’ot’en checkpoint on a bridge over the Wedzin kwa River.  (Jesse Winter / StarMetro)

“This is an agreement with the RCMP and our people,” said hereditary chief Namoks of the Tsayu clan, who also goes by the name John Risdale. “It’s between the RCMP and the Wet’suwet’en.”

The Wet’suwet’en nation wants to protect their traditional territory from the environmental impacts of the pipeline development. They also say the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, which signed a $13-million deal with Coastal GasLink, does not have jurisdiction over the entire territory.

The Wet’suwet’en agreed to remove cars and trucks blocking the road, but Wednesday’s deal with the RCMP is contingent upon Coastal GasLink agreeing the gate can stay on the bridge below the healing lodge. “CGL will get soft access,” chief Namoks said.

The Wet’suwet’en say the gate is necessary, citing safety concerns. The healing lodge has been firebombed, shot at and vandalized before by pro-pipeline activists, according to Chief Namoks. A Thursday meeting with Coastal GasLink will be critical to the proposed solution to a standoff that heated up earlier this month when the Wet’suwet’en nation erected another barricade across the same logging road at the Gitimt’en camp.

Read more:

Patients at Wet’suwet’en healing lodge caught up in standoff

Trudeau rules out visit to B.C. pipeline protest site

Here’s what you need to know about the Wet’suwet’en protests

Dagger (far right) hugs a fellow camp supporter at the gates of the Unist'ot'en checkpoint after the gates were opened to allow RCMP and hereditary chiefs to enter for a meeting.
Dagger (far right) hugs a fellow camp supporter at the gates of the Unist’ot’en checkpoint after the gates were opened to allow RCMP and hereditary chiefs to enter for a meeting.

In December, Coastal GasLink got an injunction in the B.C. Supreme Court to allow the company to go through the Unist’oten barricade, but nothing happened until Wet’suwet’en land defenders put up a second barricade on the same road at the Gitimt’en camp. The injunction was amended in January to include the Gitimt’en checkpoint, which was raided on Monday. RCMP went over the barrier across the Morice West Forest Service Road and arrested 14 people, all of whom had been released by Wednesday night. They were freed after agreeing to appear in a Prince George court in February, to abide by the injunction, and to keep the peace.

RCMP and hereditary chiefs, with media in tow, arrived at the Unist’ot’en camp about 65 kilometres outside of Houston, B.C., on Wednesday afternoon in a bid to find a peaceful solution to the ongoing conflict between police and the Wet’suwet’en nation.

The group crossed the Unist’ot’en checkpoint shortly after 2:30 Wednesday. As media waited for the results of the meeting, a camp supporter handed out glasses of water.

“Do you guys know what you are drinking?” he asked. “This comes straight from the Wedzin Kwa River. This is what we’re fighting for.”

Herby Jim, a Wet'suwet'en member of the Tsayu Clan, came to the Unist'ot'en Healing Lodge hoping to tackle his inner demons. Instead, he found himself caught in the middle of a political battle of land rights and indigenous sovereignty.
Herby Jim, a Wet’suwet’en member of the Tsayu Clan, came to the Unist’ot’en Healing Lodge hoping to tackle his inner demons. Instead, he found himself caught in the middle of a political battle of land rights and indigenous sovereignty.  (Jesse Wiinter/ StarMetro)

The Unist’ot’en healing lodge houses dozens of people, including land defenders, camp supporters and those people here for healing. It is not covered by the court injunction, but the barbed-wire topped gate on the nearby bridge and the road behind it is.

Molly Wickham, 37, who acted as an informal spokesperson for the Gitimt’en camp when the RCMP broke through the barricade on Monday, was one of three people released before the others on Wednesday.

Wickham lives with her husband in a cabin beyond km 44 of the Morice West Forest Service Road, which is where police dismantled the Gitimt’en checkpoint on Monday.

Unlike the protestors arrested for blocking the gates of the Trans Mountain pipeline project last year — who were charged with criminal contempt of court — the charges against those arrested in connection with the Coastal GasLink injunction are all civil cases.

Dan McLaughlin, communications counsel for the B.C. prosecution service, confirmed by email Wednesday that it is not involved.

Freda Huson and Brenda Michell watch with apprehension as a convoy of vehicles approaches the barbed-wire gate at the Unist'ot'en checkpoint on January 9, 2019. The Wet’suwet’en say the gate is necessary, citing safety concerns. The healing lodge has been firebombed, shot at and vandalized before by pro-pipeline activists, according to Chief Namoks.
Freda Huson and Brenda Michell watch with apprehension as a convoy of vehicles approaches the barbed-wire gate at the Unist’ot’en checkpoint on January 9, 2019. The Wet’suwet’en say the gate is necessary, citing safety concerns. The healing lodge has been firebombed, shot at and vandalized before by pro-pipeline activists, according to Chief Namoks.  (Jesse Winter/StarMetro)

B.C. premier John Horgan spoke to reporters about the conflict for the first time Wednesday, saying he believed LNG Canada had satisfied its obligations to consult and gain consent from First Nations band councils along the Coastal GasLink route.

But Horgan defended Forest Minister Doug Donaldson’s meeting with hereditary chiefs at the anti-pipeline checkpoint last weekend, ahead of the RCMP enforcement, as “appropriate” in order to keep the dialogue open.

“LNG Canada has shown they understand the importance of reconciliation with First Nations,” Horgan said, “and that is why they have signed agreements with every First Nation along the pipeline corridor.”

And though the project offers “great opportunity” for Indigenous people and for B.C., the conflict between four of five Wet’suwet’en band councils who signed deals and the five Wet’suwet’en clan chiefs who oppose it, “also highlights the challenge of reconciliation,” he said.

“There’s no quick fix when it comes to addressing differences of opinion within families, communities and within clans,” he said. “It’s the responsibility of the two orders of government to figure that out. We do that in consulting with band councils and the hereditary leadership.”


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This retired surgeon turns classic paintings and N.L. landscapes into rugs like it’s no big deal


If it wasn’t for Twitter, nobody but a lucky clutch of close family and friends would ever know about Alan Kwan’s astonishingly intricate hooked-rug renderings of classic French paintings and Newfoundland scenes.

« I just thought, ‘This is amazing, people need to see this, » said Nikki Gagnon, Kwan’s daughter-in-law.

So she posted a pic of a rug he made from a picture of the north shore of St. John’s, taken from Signal Hill, to Twitter.

Alan Kwan holds up his masterpiece. (Submitted by Alan Kwan)

« She didn’t tell me, » Kwan said, laughing, adding that he was fine with it.

« But I just do it for a hobby. »

Kwan is remarkably nonchalant about his « hobby, » saying the work ethic, perfectionism, steady hand and excruciating attention to detail each of his works demand all come naturally — he was a surgeon for 35 years, arriving in St. John’s in 1975 after training in New York City and Montreal.

« I guess it fits my personality, » he said.

A hooked-rug rendering of George Seurat’s 1884 classic painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte looks almost like an early Regatta day on the shores of Quidi Vidi Lake. (Submitted by Alan Kwan)

But his inspiration for taking up rug hooking in the first place also has a connection to the medical profession.

A few years before he retired, he visited St. Anthony and saw some of the hooked rugs made during the mission established by Dr. Wilfred T. Grenfell. He even bought a few of the rugs he found in antique shops in the area.

« I thought that I could do it, I could try it. » 

Kwan says rug hooking suits his personality. (Submitted by Alan Kwan)

So when he retired in 2010, his wife enrolled him in a few courses at the Anna Templeton Centre in St. John’s.

« It was a retirement project, really, » he said.

Rug hooking is the ideal retirement project, he said, because it doesn’t cost much money — he uses burlap and yarn made of wool — but it keeps him creative and gives him something to do.

Making intricate hooked rugs like this copy of Claude Monet’s The Poppy Field Near Argenteuil is just a hobby for retired surgeon Alan Kwan. (Submitted by Alan Kwan)

He figures he spent about four or five months on the St. John’s hillscape, noting he didn’t work on it every day.

Though rug hooking aligns well with his disposition, he said, he still learns a lot from it.

« When I started … I wasn’t sure I could finish it, I wasn’t sure I could do it. But you keep on plugging at it, and making mistakes and changing it and correcting it and all that stuff that goes on and you’ve finished it, » Kwan said.

« It takes time, that’s all. »

Pitcher plants, rendered in yarn. (Submitted by Alan Kwan)

Read more stories from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


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Why Canada raced to get in on the CPTPP trade deal


The Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 11-country Asia-Pacific trade agreement revived after being abandoned by the Americans, takes effect today.

Agrifood exporters and consumers shopping for Japanese cars could benefit right away. But Canada’s greater goals for this agreement are strategic.

« Right now, things are a bit sensitive with the United States, » said Brian Innes, the president of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance, the umbrella group representing most Canadian food producers — grain and livestock farmers in particular — who rely on sales to international markets.

« Secure access, stable access to the Asia-Pacific markets is really important to farmers right now. »

The Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership made the reworked CPTPP a far better deal for Canada.

Originally, Canada needed to be in the TPP to avoid falling behind its closest competitors. When the remaining economies — including Japan, a large, developed market where Canada couldn’t land a bilateral trade deal — stuck together, Canadians got a head start over the Americans.

Not all 11 countries have ratified yet. But six have: Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand and Singapore. Vietnam ratified a few weeks later, so the CPTPP takes effect there early in the new year.

Some tariffs have now been lifted, or have started to phase out. More tariff cuts are set for early in 2019, improving price calculations for a range of businesses. But in Canada, the biggest winners are export-oriented farmers.

American farmers have noticed, and they aren’t happy about the new foothold Canadian farmers are about to get. 

A future U.S. administration may reconsider and negotiate re-entry. In the meantime, it’s time for Canadians to work on selling in markets they’ve chased for decades, Innes said.

Chief among them is Japan, a highly-protectionist agrifood market. Beef tariffs there, for example, were 39 per cent. They aren’t going away completely, but they will slowly ramp down.

Canola oil will be free of tariffs in five years.

« Right now we can ship a lot of unprocessed, raw seed into Japan, but the tariffs on canola oil prevent us from value-adding and shipping canola oil to Japan, » Innes said. « It’s really amazing that it’s finally going to happen. »

Canada is already a leading pork exporter. Canadian pork may now be more affordable than comparable U.S. imports in Japan, thanks to the tariff cuts in the CPTPP.

As processed food tariffs lift in Vietnam, French fries from Atlantic Canada also get cheaper. The list goes on.

« Right now we’re shipping eight billion dollars of exports to CPTPP countries and we think we’ll see that grow by 25 per cent once these tariff cuts are implemented, » Innes said.

Two new shipping terminals are being built in Vancouver, he said — the first new ones in decades. 

Automotive industry sticking to new NAFTA

« The Canadian government wanted (the CPTPP) on the books during the NAFTA process to demonstrate to them that we can make a deal without them, » said Flavio Volpe, the president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturer’s Association.

But the CPTPP doesn’t do much for Ontario’s automotive industry. When the U.S. was part of the TPP (along with Mexico, which remains in the deal), this agreement superseded the original North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

But when the Americans left, there was little prospect of Canada and Mexico overhauling their highly-integrated supply chains to comply with rules different from what the Americans wanted, and recently insisted on, for NAFTA 2.0

Canada’s automotive exports go south, not west.

The reworked CPTPP is more of a bullet dodged for Volpe’s industry: the original TPP didn’t require a majority of car components to be sourced and assembled in North America, which held open the door for more Asian parts. NAFTA 2.0 works to close it.

« The USMCA [Trump’s preferred name for the revised NAFTA] all but cauterizes any wounds, assuming ratification and passage, that we would have endured because of the terms of the TPP, » Volpe said.

If anything, the U.S. wants to bring the Japanese under the umbrella of the new NAFTA rules to frustrate China’s growth. The automotive chapter could be overhauled if a future White House negotiates re-entry into the CPTPP.

But there is one automotive outcome worth watching: Canadian consumers eyeing Japanese models not currently assembled in North America might be able to negotiate a better price with their dealerships soon, as the current 6.1 per cent tariff on Japanese imports begins to phase out over the next four years.

When Canada’s free trade deal with South Korea made some Korean models cheaper, dealerships offered promotional pricing in celebration.

(Cambridge Hyundai Online Advertisement)

But if you’re not currently shopping for a Mitsubishi, what’s changing for you?

« Absolutely nothing, » said Carlo Dade of the Canada West Foundation, who has studied the benefits of the TPP for Canada for months.

Service industries look for growth

The benefits from a deal like this — equivalent to another NAFTA, Dade said, in long-term potential — take years to materialize. « And they don’t often materialize directly into things like lower prices, » he said.

Instead, research suggests firms reinvest in their products, services and employees.

As CPTPP takes hold, e-commerce and expedited shipping and customs clearance get simpler, with more markets using the same rules. Cheaper intermediate suppliers become available.

Professional credentials recognition for architects and engineers boosts the service industries needed by countries like Vietnam as they develop new infrastructure. And emerging middle-class populations in Asia are starting to purchase things like insurance, a globally-competitive industry in Canada.

In global service industries, people need to be able to cross borders for work.

« Good luck trying to get a Malaysian into the U.S. for three months to actually work in an office, » Dade said. With the CPTPP, « we’ve got that advantage over the Americans for the entire Pacific Rim. »

U.S. President Donald Trump pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the early days of his presidency. But a future president may decide to re-negotiate an American re-entry, especially if the deal succeeds in its goal of providing an alternative to China’s economic dominance in the region. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

« The bigger companies, yes, are ready, » said Mark Agnew, the director of international policy at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. « The gap, » he added, « is for small and medium-sized businesses » — they often lack the time, resources and expertise to figure out how to compete in Asia.

Sometimes it’s just easier to focus on English-speaking customers in North America, where the rules are familiar.

« It takes a little while to … start to notice benefits from any trade agreement, » said Meredith Lilly, a former adviser in Stephen Harper’s office when the original TPP was negotiated by the previous Conservative government. « The government can set the table, but others need to take it up. »

« This was largely a defensive deal for Canada, » she said — a way into a large trading bloc that Canada needed to join so customers and suppliers didn’t slip away.

1.5 billion now in ‘free trade zone’

Asian imports to Canada, like textiles or electronics, already had low or no tariffs. Clothing from Vietnam won’t significantly drop in price now, for example.

These new trading relationships have « longer term, more nebulous gains, » Lilly said. But as more and more countries join — Colombia, Thailand, South Korea and even a post-Brexit United Kingdom are interested — the deal’s higher labour, environmental and intellectual property standards could become the regional norm, something which is in Canada’s interests.

There aren’t many hot economies these days. But Vietnam’s one of them. 

Brian Kingston of the Business Council of Canada sees a sound, long-term strategy in trying to get Canada in there early.

Vietnam’s « not quite on par with what China’s achieved, » he said, « but you can see them following that path » of growing and developing very quickly.

« In 10 to 15 years from now, this could become a very valuable market. »

The CPTPP also includes investor protections, making the region more accessible for businesses that saw potential but couldn’t take the risks.

« We’re way better off and way more competitive on the 30th of December than we would be on Dec. 29, » International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr told CBC News on Parliament Hill before leaving for the holiday break.

« This is a market of 500 million consumers that will be in addition to the 500 million through the European trade agreement and the nearly 500 million with the (revised NAFTA), so 1.5 billion consumers (are now) in Canada’s free trade zone. »


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Schism within government on how to deal with the Ontario Medical Association puts premier and health minister at odds


The Ford government has not only angered doctors by pulling the plug on arbitration with the Ontario Medical Association, but now one of its MPPs has gone public in denouncing the move as well.

The Star has also learned there is a growing schism within government on the issue — with the health minister’s office on one side and the premier’s office on the other.

Binding arbitration, aimed at resolving an almost five-year-old contract dispute between the OMA and government, is scheduled to resume Saturday.

But the government revealed earlier this week it no longer plans to attend.

The OMA, which is the legally recognized bargaining agent for the province’s 31,000 physicians, says it still plans to participate, noting that arbitration legislation permits the process to continue even if one party fails to show up.

But the OMA contends it’s illegal for the government to “fire” its nominee.

Meantime, angry doctors are lashing out against the government with some warning of job action and others calling on Conservative MPPs and cabinet ministers to stand up to their own government on the issue.

The physicians charge that the Conservative Party wooed them for their support during the election based on a false promise to make peace with the profession.

Conservative MPP Randy Hillier said he has heard that message loud and clear from doctors in his eastern Ontario riding of Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston. He said the Conservatives also promised in the election to resolve the dispute through binding arbitration and now have an obligation to do so.

“There is a substantial number of physicians who are very disappointed. They are truly expecting and wanting to have a good relationship and to have this dispute resolved through the mechanism that we agreed to,” he said.

“We made that commitment to resolve this dispute through arbitration and unless there is a better mechanism that all parties agree to, then we must uphold our commitment,” Hillier added.

The government earlier this week sent a letter to William Kaplan, chair of the arbitration board, stating it was withdrawing from the arbitration process because it “lacks confidence that the OMA can deliver on the outcome of any arbitration decision.”

Less than two weeks earlier, a request was made to Health Minister Christine Elliott by a group of high-paid specialists to suspend the arbitration process.

It was signed by radiologist Dr. David Jacobs, an outspoken supporter of Premier Doug Ford’s. He is spearheading an effort by a group of high-billing specialists, including radiologists, to break-away from the OMA.

The attempt to split the OMA followed the release of a report from an internal association committee, which recommended that high-billing specialists get paid less and low-billing ones get paid more.

A source close to government said the decision to pull out of arbitration came directly from Premier Doug Ford’s office.

Health Minister Christine Elliott has pushed for arbitration to continue but has been overruled by an official from Ford’s office, said the source who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal deliberations.

A second source close to government acknowledged the internal rift.

“Given how this was handled, there is no way that the government is unified about this decision. Things have to get back on track, fast,” said the source, who who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the controversy.

The government is alienating physicians, the source warned, adding that the consequences could spell bad news for Ontario patients.

“The problem is that the consequences for the government and its relationship with physicians will be toxic.”

Press secretaries for Ford and Elliott have not responded to questions about the dissension between their offices.

On Twitter, doctors are discussing job action and OMA president Dr. Nadia Alam has said all options are on the table.

OMA lawyer Steven Barrett sent a letter to Kaplan Thursday, stating that the arbitration hearings “must proceed nothwithstanding the unlawful and bad faith attempt by the (government) to undermine the process.”

Theresa Boyle is a Toronto-based reporter covering health. Follow her on Twitter: @theresaboyle


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B.C. First Nation eyes renegotiating benefit deal on Trans Mountain pipeline project


A British Columbia First Nation is looking to renegotiate its Trans Mountain expansion benefit agreements signed before Ottawa bought the pipeline, according to a band councillor.

Simpcw First Nation Coun. George Lampreau said the new round of consultations launched by Ottawa following August’s Federal Court of Appeal decision created a new process on the project.

Simpcw First Nation, about 80 kilometres north of Kamloops, B.C., was one of 43 First Nations that signed mutual benefit agreements (MBAs) with Kinder Morgan when it owned the 1,500-km Trans Mountain pipeline and was working to increase its capacity to 890,000 barrels of oil per day from 300,000.

« To us it’s a new process. They keep telling us, ‘Your MBAs are going to stand up,' » said Lampreau. « We don’t feel that way. So we are going to probably get into renegotiating. »

Lampreau said the band council still needs to develop its plan with the new consultation process and discuss it with community members.

The First Nation held a referendum to ensure it had community support to sign the initial MBA, said Lampreau.

« It’s a community process. We engage with them with on every major decision we make within our community, » he said.

Trans Mountain says it will honour MBAs

In an emailed statement, Trans Mountain media relations said it « will continue to honour all of our mutual benefit agreements as agreed to and are committed to our relationships with Indigenous communities and to completing the project successfully and with shared prosperity for those communities. »

Ottawa purchased the pipeline in May because the previous owner, Houston-based Kinder Morgan, was preparing to walk away from the $7.4 billion project which faced stiff opposition from First Nations and the British Columbia government.

An aerial view of the Trans Mountain marine terminal in Burnaby, B.C., in May. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

The expanded pipeline would pump bitumen mined in Alberta from its Sherwood Park terminal to tankers docking at an expanded Westridge Terminal in Burnaby, B.C.

The Federal Court of Appeal in August overturned the approval for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, partly on grounds Ottawa failed to properly consult and accommodate First Nations on the project.

Lampreau said Simpcw decided to sign onto the pipeline expansion to increase its influence over how the project unfolds.

« We would rather be involved in the process than sitting on the outside and have it pushed through, » he said. « At least our concerns are heard right at the front. »

Lampreau said the First Nation has developed an emergency response plan and is currently monitoring and maintaining the existing 50-year-old Trans Mountain pipeline.

‘We have been called sell-outs’

Lampreau said Simpcw has faced a lot of heat on its position from First Nations activists who oppose the pipeline. He said the band leadership has even faced threats over the issue.

« We have been called sell-outs; We have been called traitors, » said Lampreau.

Lampreau criticized the vocal position taken by Neskonlith Indian Band Chief Judy Wilson and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) against the pipeline. He said some of the activists targeting his community are from Neskonlith, about 51 km west of Kamloops. 

Wilson is secretary-treasurer for the organization. Simpcw is also a member of UBCIC. ​Neskonlith and Simpcw are both part of the Secwepemc Nation.

Lampreau said the pipeline crosses within a few kilometres of Simpcw’s reserve boundaries and through about 400 kilometres of its territorial « division » within Secwepemc territorial lands.

« Even though the right is collective, we have our own right within our division and we protect that, » said Lampreau.

« Yet no one from the rest of the nation, including [Wilson] has ever come to us and asked us about what we are doing with the pipeline. »

‘The collective benefit isn’t there’

Wilson said Lampreau’s linking of activists to her community was an attempt to get a legal hook to place responsibility on her leadership.

Wilson said band councils control territory only up to their reserve boundaries and it’s the people of the nation who hold title to Secwepemc territory as a whole.

Neskonlith Indian Band Chief Judy Wilson speaks during an anti-Trans Mountain pipeline news conference on Thursday during the Assembly of First Nations annual December meeting in Ottawa. (Jorge Barrera/CBC)

« Title belongs the nation and it’s collective in nature, » said Wilson. « I think the ones who are trying to claim territory are buying into those colonial notions and the divide and conquer tactics of the government and industry. »

Wilson said a letter has been sent to Simpcw explaining her position.

Wilson said she understands why some First Nations have signed onto the Trans Mountain project, but said the promised economic benefits pale in comparison to the pipeline’s threat to the environment.

« The collective benefit isn’t there for the people and as leaders, that is what we are supposed to be looking at — the collective benefit of our people, the land and water, » she said. « And not be blinded by economic promises that are really false economic promises. » 

Neskonlith chief accuses Trudeau of sexism

Wilson confronted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Tuesday over his government’s failure to obtain « consent » from First Nations on the pipeline project.

Neskonlith Chief Judy Wilson asks PM about consent on Trans Mountain pipeline 5:23

The exchanged occurred after the prime minister delivered a speech to the Assembly of First Nations during their annual December meeting in Ottawa.

In his response, Trudeau referred to Wilson by her first name, while using the title « chief » responding to the other male questioners. 

Wilson and UBCIC have demanded an apology from Trudeau over what she viewed as sexism.


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How to deal with layoffs – Montreal


The holiday season is upon us and what is supposed to be a joyous time might not be for all.

With Bombardier announcing mass layoffs, General Motors closing its Oshawa, Ont., plant and many companies closing their books, employees are wondering if they could be next.

HR specialist Sherri Rabinovitch joined Global’s Laura Casella to break down what both the employer and employee can do in this situation.

Rabinovitch says the most vital thing to do is plan, “whether you’re the employer or employee.”

Affected by the Oshawa GM plant closure? Here’s how you can manage stress of a layoff

She recommends employers try temporary layoffs rather than full job cuts. “It’s really important for employers to be mindful that it is the holiday period and another 30 days won’t change anything for the business,” Rabinovitch says.

Furthermore, employers can do something shortened to postpone letting employees go during the holidays, such as temporary layoffs, to offset some of the bigger salaries.

Employers can “then do what they need to do post-holiday season,” she says.

Bombardier CEO ends silence on layoffs, defends the move

However, if employers do have to make cuts, offer employees assistance by hiring a transition team. “An organization will come in and help the employees who are being laid off prepare resumes, help develop interview skills, and assist in future job placement,” Rabinovitch says.

She believes organizations that respect employees should provide them with alternatives.

“Among all the other points, that to me is paramount, taking care of the people that worked for you.”


WATCH BELOW: GM layoffs put a damper on workers’ Christmas


For employees, being laid off can come as a shock.

“It’s such a shock. You always hear rumours, but you never think it’s going to happen, and then boom.”

So it is important for those who find themselves jobless to lean on family and friends for emotional support.

“It is incredibly crushing to lose a job at any time but when you’re thinking about the holidays and you’re planning and making sure that everyone has gifts and all of that stuff, when that happens to you it can be devastating,”  Rabinovitch says.

New order for Bombardier Alstom Metro cars in Montreal won’t prevent job cuts

She recommends the best thing employees can do is plan. Even if you aren’t expecting to be laid off, have an up-to-date CV and start networking.

“Anything can happen at any time,” she says. “If employees are planning and updating their CVs even slightly, they can hit the ground running right away.”

And finally, she recommends having a financial plan in place, with at least “three to six months of savings” set aside due to the competitive job market right now.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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Canada, U.S., Mexico sign revised NAFTA deal Trump says ‘changes the trade landscape forever’


WASHINGTON—The leaders of Canada, the United States and Mexico signed their new trade agreement early on Friday, hailing the revised NAFTA as a win for all three countries — though Prime Minister Justin Trudeau emphasized continuity and U.S. President Donald Trump emphasized change.

Trudeau said he signed the agreement to preserve the “stability” of the Canadian economy, saying that making a deal “lifts the risk of serious economic uncertainty that lingers throughout a trade renegotiation process” and ensures most Canadian exports continue to be tariff-free.

He described the agreement, which maintains most of the provisions of the original North American Free Trade Agreement, as a “new NAFTA.” He said it would “protect” jobs and strengthen the middle class.

Trump, conversely, said the agreement “changes the trade landscape forever.” Highlighting specific new provisions of the deal, he said it would raise wages, “bring back” automotive manufacturing jobs and boost American farmers.

“This is an agreement that first and foremost benefits working people,” Trump said.

The current 24-year-old NAFTA will remain in place until the new agreement is ratified by all three countries’ legislatures. It is far from certain the U.S. Congress will indeed approve the new agreement, which has been criticized by both the Republicans who control the Senate and the incoming Democratic majority in the House of Representatives.

The Democrats took more than four years to approve trade deals struck by Republican president George W. Bush a decade ago. They are not expected to move quickly to approve Trump’s project.

Trudeau signed the document despite Trump’s refusal to immediately eliminated his tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum. Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., David MacNaughton, had suggested earlier in November that Trudeau might not attend a ceremony unless the tariff issue was resolved.

Trudeau described last week’s factory cuts by General Motors as a “heavy blow.” Directly addressing Trump, he said, “Donald, it’s all the more reason why we need to keep working to remove the tariffs on steel and aluminum between our countries.”

But Trump has argued again this month that those tariffs have fuelled a comeback by the U.S. steel and aluminum industries. After the signing, U.S. trade chief Robert Lighthizer told reporters that negotiations are ongoing but that they see the tariffs as successful policy, CBC reported.

The new agreement is to be known as the USMCA (U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement) in U.S. law and CUSMA (with Canada first) in Canadian law.

The agreement sets rules governing dozens of industries. It keeps the overwhelming percentage of North American trade tariff-free.

Perhaps its most significant changes are related to the auto industry, for which Trump insisted on new protectionist provisions intended to wrest some manufacturing back from Mexico and overseas. The agreement includes a new rule, for example, that a car will only be freed from tariffs if 40 per cent or more of its contents are produced by workers earning $16 (U.S.) per hour or more.

Among other things, the agreement also lengthens copyrights for creative works and patent protection for certain sophisticated medicines, slightly opens up the protected Canadian dairy industry to U.S. access and eliminates the long-controversial “Chapter 11” provision between Canada and the U.S. allowing investors to sue governments for allegedly violating their rights.

Trudeau’s government has informally referred to the new agreement as a new NAFTA, noting that much of the original remains in place. Trump, who has called NAFTA the worst trade deal in world history, has wrongly insisted he is terminating NAFTA and replacing it with something entirely new.

Both Trudeau and Trump have taken criticism over the new agreement. The Canadian Conservatives have accused Trudeau of making too many concessions to Trump, who had threatened to “ruin” the Canadian economy unless he got his way. Canada’s dairy lobby urged Trudeau this week not to sign the agreement unless it was changed to give the U.S. less influence over the industry.

Trump, meanwhile, has taken criticism from all sides, with some Republicans saying the deal is too protectionist and some Democrats saying it does not do enough to enforce provisions meant to raise the lax Mexican labour standards they say is responsible for the decline in American manufacturing

When the three countries reached the deal at the end of September, Trump said he was not at all confident of obtaining congressional approval. He struck a more optimistic note on Friday, saying, “It’s been so well-reviewed, I don’t expect to have very much of a problem.”

The three countries continued to talk out the agreement all the way up to the signing ceremony.

“A vast number of technical details need to be scrubbed and wrapped up,” Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Thursday, the Canadian Press reported. “The fact that this is an agreement in three languages adds to the level of technical complexity and it is on that level that we are just being sure that all the Is are dotted and all the Ts are crossed.”

It is possible substantive negotiations will resume at some point. To placate critics of the original NAFTA negotiated under Republican president George H.W. Bush, Democratic president Bill Clinton negotiated “side letters” adding some new provisions.

Relations between the U.S. and Canada took repeated blows during the negotiation Trump initiated in August 2017, largely because of his public attacks on Trudeau. On Friday, the president described the prime minister as a friend.

“Battles sometimes make great friendships,” Trump said. He added later: “We’ve taken a lot of barbs and a little abuse, and we got there. It’s great for all of our countries.”

The agreement was signed by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on his last day in office.


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